The World Refuses to Recognize the Truth About Anti-Jewish Terrorism
Last Saturday, an Orthodox French rabbi, his 19-year-old son and a friend were stabbed by an Arab man shouting antisemitic slurs and “Allahu akbar” outside the synagogue where they attended Shabbat services in the city of Marseille. Even after the police came and arrested the attacker, he continued with his antisemitic invective.
Verbal and physical attacks on Jews have unfortunately become rather commonplace in France, although Marseille has not figured prominently in the headlines. What should be of special concern to the Jewish communities in France and elsewhere is that the attack happened in the midst of the terror onslaught against Jews in Israel, using the same terrorist means, stabbing. There should be a real concern that the man was a copycat terrorist, prompted by the same kind of incitement that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas are so adept at here in the Middle East.
After the terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo magazine office and the kosher supermarket in Paris in January, there certainly was not enough concern with copycat terrorism in other European capitals. Only after the Copenhagen shootings a month later did authorities properly realize the severity of the threat.
However, efforts to combat this kind of terrorism are not helped by the prevalent European insistence that such attacks are committed by mentally unstable “lone wolves” or “conventional” criminals, and thus something we need not worry too much about. This analysis is entirely misguided. In fact, if these are lone-wolf attacks, they should give authorities much greater cause for concern, since the “lone wolf” is so much more difficult to detect and deter.
In this case, French mainstream media predictably explained that the man was known to the police and intoxicated at the time of the attack, implying that this was not an act of terrorist intent. According to the rabbi who was attacked, however, the perpetrator knew very well what he was doing. “The perpetrator was not crazy,” he said. “My son and I were attacked because we have beards and wear hats.”
What the French media seems to be ignoring is that, while the terrorist may or may not have been drunk, suffered from mental problems or been a petty criminal known to the police, none of this rules out an intention to carry out terrorism. Hezbollah terrorists, for example, are known for fighting under the influence of drugs. Does that make them any less terrorist?
In December 2014, two car-ramming attacks were committed in France. This happened shortly after Arabs in Israel had perpetrated a number of car-ramming attacks in Jerusalem, killing, among others, a three-month-old girl. The first of the French car-ramming attacks, in Dijon, wounded 11 people. The second, at a Christmas market in Nantes, wounded 17. Both drivers were characterized as having mental problems. The driver in Nantes subsequently stabbed himself.
Despite the fact that these incidents, clearly inspired by events in Jerusalem, had many of the characteristics of terrorist attacks, authorities refused to designate them as such. The first attack was perpetrated by an Arab who reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar.” Nevertheless, the state prosecutor insisted that the attack had not been politically or religiously motivated, claiming that the attacker told investigators that he had shouted this only to “give himself courage.” She said that he had spoken “incoherently” of taking revenge for “Chechen and Palestinian children” but had no links or sympathies with extremist Islamist groups. He had not been “self-radicalized” on the Internet because he did not even have an Internet connection at home. The gullibility of this French prosecutor can only be characterized as criminal.
Similarly, in June 2015, after more car-rammings in Israel, a Bosnian man in Graz, Austria, rammed his car into a crowd of shoppers before stabbing bystanders, killing three, including a 4-year-old boy, and wounding 34 people. The Austrian authorities at the time plainly denied that the attack had anything to do with terrorism and cited “psychosis” and “family problems,” as the man had a restraining order from his wife.
Europeans are missing the point entirely when they cite mental problems, criminal records and family problems to rule out the possibility of terrorist motives. On the contrary, these people are the ones who are probably most exposed to the radicalization and consequent prompting into spontaneous terrorism. The idea that a heinous act, utilizing typical terrorist methods — stabbings, shootings, car-rammings — cannot be characterized as a terrorist act, simply because the perpetrator suffers from a number of additional issues, is dangerous. Those may be the very issues that finally prompt him into terrorism in the first place. “Organized terrorism,” al-Qaida style, as it was known to the West after 9/11, morphed years ago, because it was too easy for authorities to discover.
The rabbi attacked in Saturday’s stabbing in Marseille had one very poignant point. “We were attacked next to a cafe. … Patrons were there, but none intervened,” he said.
No one intervened. The rabbi and his son might have been dead had it not been for their friend who was with them and did indeed intervene. That is the single most significant difference between being a Jew in Europe and a Jew in Israel, from a security point of view. In Europe, a Jew relies on strangers and reluctant European authorities to help and to pay for police and the military to protect his freedom. In Israel, at least, there is a police force and an army whose primary purpose is to uphold the Jewish way of life.
Judith Bergman is a writer and political analyst living in Israel.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.